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Trump administration enhances scrutiny of Hezbollah overseas

Released Hezbollah prisoners marching in a parade in their honor in Beirut, 2008. (Salah Malkawi/Getty)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Trump administration designated Hezbollah as a transnational criminal organization, enhancing efforts to prosecute the Lebanese militia.

The designation made Tuesday, Oct. 13, adds staff and funding to cross-departmental efforts to go after criminal organizations overseas. Ilan Graff, an assistant U.S. attorney who is prosecuting two alleged U.S.-based Hezbollah operatives, will lead the Hezbollah task force.

In addition to Hezbollah, four Latin American criminal gangs and drug organizations were added to the list.

“The day I was sworn in as attorney general, President Trump sent me an executive order to dismantle transnational criminal organizations — the gangs and cartels who flood our streets with drugs and violence,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in announcing the designations.

Hezbollah has allegedly run drug-running and terrorist operations in East Asia, Europe and Latin America, in addition to the Middle East, where it figures as a significant ally of Iran. Hezbollah launched a war against Israel in 2006 and has been building up its missile capacity since them.

The Trump administration is enhancing sanctions targeting Iran and its allies toward isolating the Islamic Republic and getting it to end its alleged nuclear weapons program. Recently, the Trump administration announced sanctions on the financial network that underwrites the Basij, the paramilitary network in Iran that represses dissent.

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